14 December 2017

China breaks ground on the world’s largest floating solar plant

China is set to break yet another record in solar technology by developing a world-first 150 megawatt (MW) floating solar PV plant as a new experiment aimed at cutting down the cost of solar energy.

The innovative power plant is being developed by the Chinese state-owned Three Gorges Group, and started construction in July.

Last Sunday, Chinese press agency Xinhua reported that the first phase of the gigantic 150MW solar plant was commissioned and is already supplying electricity to the grid.

The $150 million project is estimated to be completed in May 2018, and will officially break the record for the largest floating solar farm in the world.

Interestingly, the power plant is located in an array of panels affixed to a flotation mechanism atop a lake formed in Panji District, Huainan City, after a former coal mine collapsed and had to be filled with water.

The body of water was seen as an optimal location to implement the floating PV technology, with the Three Gorges company also considering establishing a complimentary fishing model that will stimulate the local economy and enrich the ecosystem services of the site.

Lu Chun, Chairman of Three Gorges Group argues that a floating solar power project of this size is an opportunity to drive down the cost of solar. Since the solar panels will be attached to floats instead of being ground-mounted, the installation process will be is cheaper and faster to complete.

The water not only helps keep the temperature cool around the photovoltaic panels, therefore, boosting their efficiency, but it also limits long-term degradation from heat.

Floating solar farms in China are also gaining increased popularity due to the fact that they are seen as a solution to problems with grid congestion in the country.

In addition, when installed in irrigation or drinking water reservoirs, they also reduce water loss through evaporation.

The current floating solar plant record is still held by China after a 40MW floating power plant located in the same district was commissioned in May.

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